In a truly bizarre case, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “OLRB”) recently overturned an Employment Standards Officer’s award of missing wages to an individual who claimed to have worked for a restaurant.
The case involved Randy Walsh, an individual who was hired by Chuck’s Burger Bar, a restaurant located in Hamilton, Ontario. Mr. Walsh claimed that he worked for the restaurant for two weeks and that he was not paid for any of this time.
The owner of Chuck’s Burger Bar disputed Mr. Walsh’s claim for missing wages stating that, although Mr. Walsh was hired, he never showed up for work. Mr. Walsh, by contrast, claimed that he worked 62 hours his first week and 72.5 hours the second.
Mr. Walsh submitted a claim with the Ministry of Labour for missing wages. The matter was then heard by an Employment Standards Officer who believed Mr. Walsh’s account of the story and awarded him two weeks’ wages, including overtime payments and vacation pay on the wages earned.
On appeal, the OLRB preferred Chuck’s Burger Bar’s account of the facts and overturned the decision of the Employment Standards Officer, finding that Mr. Walsh never worked for Chuck’s Burger Bar. The OLRB specifically found that Mr. Walsh’s story was inconsistent, lacking key details, and ultimately not credible. The OLRB specifically stated the following,
“The most significant problem with Mr. Walsh’s testimony about his work experience at the Restaurant was that he could not name a single person or entity – a supplier or a supplier’s representative, or even a co-worker – with whom he had any contact. Mr. Walsh’s explanation for his inability to provide such basic details, namely that he had “information overload,” is an entirely unsatisfactory response to what, to my mind, should have been readily recalled answers.”
Also of concern to the OLRB was that Mr. Walsh recalled vividly the circumstances surrounding how he obtained employment, yet he provided no details of the actual work he claims to have done at the Restaurant.
The OLRB ultimately ordered that any funds held in trust to pay the Mr. Walsh be returned to the restaurant
Lesson for employers
This case demonstrates that there exist mechanisms in place to manage circumstances where employees attempt to inappropriately extract funds from employers. The decision also demonstrates that employment disputes are decided on a balance of probabilities and that both courts and tribunals will make decisions based on what they believe is more likely than not to have occurred. Employers should accordingly maintain adequate records to be prepared in the event that a dispute arises. Having such a process in place will ensure that employers are able to strongly defend against any type of claim, include both the strange and unusual.